It’s interesting the things we remember and the things we don’t; especially at special times like the holidays. I heard someone asking recently, “What were your top 3 favorite Christmas presents?” It prompted me to ask myself that same question. I thought about it and tried to recall favorite gifts from my childhood. I do remember the guitar. I also remember the easy bake oven that my mother swore I’d never get because it was sure to make a horrid mess. That was the year Santa was confirmed for me. Mother never would have gotten an easy bake oven; she told me so.
I had to dig for those two material memories. I was sifting among the other, more vivid recollections; the clearer, more colorful reminiscences that bring a smile to my face and sometimes a thankful, happy tear to my eye.
I remember home; the warm southern Mississippi temperatures, Christmas trees, and family faces. I remember everyone taking turns opening presents in order of age, but I don’t remember what was in the packages themselves. I remember throwing olives at my sister at the other end of the table and my grandmother’s disapproving but slightly amused glances. I remember the kids’ table and the grown ups’ table and who sat where…and when. I remember anxiously waiting for my first cousin to show up on Christmas day from Florida to spend several days with us and how we slept on the rarely used, foldout couch and made up silly songs late into the night. I recall the warmth and laughter of having all the family together and the traditional meal. I can still see my grandfather ceremoniously carving the turkey, and I can taste my grandmother’s incredible ambrosia. I remember a feeling of belonging amidst the organized chaos of food preparation, making room, wrapping gifts, seating arrangements and numerous conversations going on at once.
Still, I don’t recall most of the tangible gifts. I remember pictures and sounds, smells and tastes. Maybe those are what are worth remembering anyway. Gifts, for all their anticipation and pleasure at the time, are often tossed aside after the season; outdated and outgrown. Memories endure.
As you finish your last minute Christmas shopping, try to worry less about the material things that will be forgotten, and soak up the gift of the present. Bake cookies, read Christmas stories, sing off key, stay up late and eat marshmallow Santas for breakfast!
This year, during our annual cookie decorating party, I will once again don my “magic” red satin cape. I will speak in that very serious tone in my cape as I tell the children that I am a “true Santa helper” – ordained by Santa himself per an elf who magically appeared to me - with this very cape in hand. I will remind them that as long as I am wearing the magic red cape at this special cookie party, all are assured a visit from Santa. He’s never let me down.
I will catch my daughter rolling her eyes and watch her children steal amused glances at each other. The younger ones will buy in completely - in awe of my story. They probably won’t remember the new clothes wrapped under the Christmas tree they’ll open on Christmas morning. However, one day they just might tell their own kids about their “crazy Gran who made Christmas cookies in a magic red cape and claimed to be Santa’s helper”. Perhaps I’ll even pass the cape down to my daughter and granddaughter like an heirloom!
In years to come, the moments with your children, your parents and those you love will be sweeter slideshows than the Ipad, flat screen TV or latest, must-have toy. Make a memory. It’s timeless and best of all - it’s free!
As you look back over your childhood Christmases, what do you remember?